Monday, May 11, 2015

My Dark Night of the Soul - Melinda Jensen




I'm no theological scholar but I’ve long been captivated by the writings of sixteenth century mystic, St John of the Cross. His exquisite treatise on the soul’s journey towards union with its Creator draws me in as surely as the moon draws the tides.

Many argue that humankind’s greatest spiritual challenge is aligning the will with that of the Great I Am, a striving depicted by St John of the Cross in his ‘Dark Night of the Soul’.  This spiritual struggle involves a depth of despair many modern Christians prefer to ignore, lest it threaten their comfortable existences. They prefer, instead, to instruct their careworn brethren to hand everything to God and wait for their lives to ‘work out.’ Proper faith, sufficient repentance and an uncanny knack for knowing exactly what’s in the mind of the Creator, they say, lead us unerringly to abundant living.

I disagree. There are Christians whose lives appear to be charmed; they enter their middle years with secure marriages, fat bank accounts and the freedom to travel, invest, and indulge their whims to their healthy heart’s content. I cannot be counted among their number.

For decades I blamed myself for my lack – for not ‘hearing’ God correctly despite dedication to His Word. I sought pastoral counseling, prayer warriors, Christian literature and of course, scripture itself. My first thoughts, before opening my eyes each morning, have long been directed to my Father, and before those eyes open I ask Him to direct my steps.

It has not, nor has it ever, prevented any injustice, illness or abuse from infiltrating my being.

A brief synopsis of my adult experience includes sexual abuse, abandonment by my children’s father, single parenting without support and, twenty years ago, contracting a debilitating, life-limiting illness that remains with me today. I’ve also suffered verbal and emotional abuse at the hands of an intimate partner, abuse so sadistic that my psychologist describes it as a spiritual crime. I am left now, to face my golden years in poverty and pain.

But don’t grab the tissue box just yet because, frankly, I feel great.

And that, is surely the abundant life scripture promises. Christ came so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. Money is dead. Possessions are dead. Only the human spirit is truly alive.

The breakdown of my marriage, which lasted from 2011 until 2013, heralded my spiritual turning point.
From the outset, I laid my pain before God, never doubting He was ‘for’ marriage and ‘against’ divorce. I trusted Him to guide me towards reconciliation. I repented of every mistake and mis-communication. I begged for guidance and wisdom, and followed His leading to the best of my ability. Honesty and authenticity were integral to my actions. Deceit and manipulation seemed integral to the other party, a man I believed once loved me. I was absolutely certain the Truth would set me free; the Truth would out; the Truth would bring justice to bear.

It did not.

I raged. I told God I was through with Him. I called Him a flawed, gnostic demi-god and accused Him of abandonment. In a logical, worldly sense, He did abandon me. Decades of devotion had led me to naught. Liars and manipulators, I concluded, were the real winners in life. I was nothing but a mug. I dug my heels in and resolutely refused to give God another moment of my time. After all, how much worse could things get?

Weeks slid by. Nothing got worse. Nothing got better.

I wasn't grieving exactly, nor genuinely depressed. Just…empty. Lonely. Terribly lonely. Unfulfilled. Inspiration and creativity deserted me. I was cold. I had no compass for my life’s direction. Life became interminable nothingness.

This…was my dark night.

All the success in the world would never bring light to my soul.

I began, tentatively, to test the waters. Are you still there God? Like a small child, I clung to The Lord’s Prayer, saying it over and over. It was a divine anxiolytic, and from those small steps, I came back to the foot of the Cross.

And so I do not believe in a prosperity gospel; rather, that the treasures God gives us can't be measured by outer circumstances.

I am grateful for my dark night, and yet…a little fearful too. According to St John, there may be more dark nights to come. I hope I recognize them.


 Mother and grandmother, writer concerned with social justice, equality for all; environmentalist who believes we are stewards of the earth, not controllers; follower of Jesus who prefers to think of herself as a Christianarchist.

10 comments:

  1. Wow Melinda, what a difficult time you've had. Many would abandon their faith if faced with the circumstances you've faced, but you've hung on and can see the positive. Although it was difficult, it will be interesting to see the fruit that comes from your dark night of the soul'. You mentioned that creativity and inspiration abandoned you for a time. May God use your circumstances to fill that creative well with His love and power. Thanks for your honesty. You write beautifully. May your words touch many xx

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    1. Thank you for your kindness and support, as always, Nola. The interesting thing for me was that God simply wasn't going to let me go, which is really such overwhelming love in the face of a 'child' who is raging and blaming Him. My creativity is indeed back, which tells me that creativity is very much a spiritual thing.

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  2. Thank you for opening your soul, Melinda. Abandonment must be the worst of all soul wrenching emotions. We were talking to a man yesterday who said he could not believe in a God who allowed suffering and injustice. We cry 'God where are you?' And as you have experienced, that has also been the heart cry of many who have found that to be a big part of their life including those who seem to have 'wealth and a comfortable lifestyle'. Money can never ever satisfy us. Far better to trust in the spiritual riches and blessings only Jesus can bring us.

    There are no easy answers and I guess that where faith and trust really matter. Like Job said 'Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him.' Even so, we want to discover that childlike trust here on earth before we meet Him face-to-face.And I believe you will find that outlet for the gifts God has given you.

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    1. It's true there are no easy answers and I think we only come by them, little by little, as we navigate life and it struggles. I hope and pray the gentleman you spoke to yesterday comes to know the nourishment of the Comforter. We each have a unique path, as God knows us all intimately, and knows exactly how to gift us what we need. The ultimate aim is always to become more like Him.

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  3. Some deep and interesting thoughts to ponder, and very pertinent too in our self-focused western society, where self-actualisation and success are the idols we reach out too. It is good to be reminded of the part that suffering plays in life, and that our Father is the real God to whom we should stretch out our hand towards.

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    1. Beautifully expressed, Meredith. Thank you. I do worry for the current 'me' generation in particular, who chase success and instant gratification even more determinedly than generations past.

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  4. Thanks so much Melinda for sharing your heart with us and doing so very vividly and beautifully. I am so very sorry for all you have experienced. What a terrible journey it has been and for too long. But I also rejoice in all you have achieved through your dark long night of the soul. I totally agree with you. That God calls us to suffering. There are no easy answers to the unpleasant shocks and surprises God allows to cross our paths.

    I have been there too - though not in the same way you have. But through tough times that made me throw myself on God. And I have discovered that life's unpleasant surprises often do something wonderful. They make us find God in deeper ways than before. I can see you have reached for Him and found Him. What better attainment than that?

    May our Father God continue to hold you and lead you into His ways for you - not always ours - but into deeper communion with Him.

    Loved your post my friend. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you my beautiful friend. Having your book of inspiration beside my bed has been a great comfort during these difficult times. And your constant words of empathy have upheld me throughout out. God bless you for your sensitivity.

      And you know what? I no sooner hit 'publish' last night, when a Mothers Day message came through from my prodigal daughter. Not more than two seconds had passed. God is good. There is no price I could possibly put on the love of my children. x

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  5. Thank you Melinda for an honest and powerful post. I've been a few of those, the last the one that almost broke my faith into a thousand little pieces - yet, as you say, He would not let me go and I came to realise that His love (and grace) was sufficient - no, not sufficient, way in excess of requirements. Praying for all who are in that dark night - that they hear God's loving voice calling them back to His light. And may God continue to bless you - both outwardly and inwardly.

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  6. Hi Melinda,
    Thanks for that post. It's so encouraging when one who has been through a Dark Night will commiserate and share with others who are going through their own. At such times, we often do seemed to be surrounded by those who seem charmed. At such times, reminders like this are like gold.

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